Earned Media: A New Generation of Brand Marketing

Forget owned and paid media. In 2018, more and more marketers find that earned media value trumps owned media value. Better still, that holds true across a variety of industries and for both B2Cs and B2Bs. Let’s take a quick refresher.


  • Owned media covers assets like your website and your email marketing list which belong specifically to you. Paid media covers PPC ads, sponsored updates on social networking sites and other advertising.
  • That leaves earned media (or earned content), which covers shares on social networking sites, write-ups on blogs and other editorial press coverage.
The interesting thing here is that while your social networking presence is owned, any shares that you get are earned. And that, in a nutshell, is why earned media is powering a new generation of brand marketing. People are learning that shares are infinitely more powerful than the initial reach of their content.

The value of Earned Media vs. Owned Media

Let’s discount paid media, not because it’s not a valid tactic but because it’s rarely the cheapest and it’s not always sustainable. Earned media and owned media are both vulnerable to the snowball effect in which they deliver greater and greater returns over time. Paid media only delivers greater returns if you increase the budget. That leaves earned media marketing and owned media marketing, and both of them have their advantages. The truth is that the two of them can work even better when they work together. Owned media brings in the eyes in the first place and then earned media takes over when people start to share it. It’s those shares that make earned media so powerful. When people share your content, it adds an element of trust to it. This trust is called social proof and it makes people more likely to make a purchase . It also dramatically increases the reach of your content and ultimately makes it far more powerful.
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Best examples of Earned Media

Back in the day, earned media usually referred to editorial and mentions of your company in newspapers and magazines. PR companies were effectively earned media machines. But that’s all changed, and nowadays everyone is an influencer. Every single retweet – which is a form of earned media – counts. When your brand talks about itself, it’s owned. When someone else talks about your brand, it’s earned. That’s why marketers love user-generated content campaigns. After all, they’re earned media machines, and they’ll help you to build your social media following at the same time. Reviews are also earned media, as are how-tos and demonstrations from users. There are so many different types of earned media that we’d be here all day if we tried to cover them all. Discussion forums and Q&A sites also count. So does offline media such as in-person recommendations. And if you want to make the most of earned media marketing then you’ll need to give people something to talk about.

Earned Media Strategy Basics

The key to successful earned content marketing is giving people a reason to talk about you. In the case of a user-generated content campaign, perhaps you’re offering prizes to people. For referral and affiliate programs, the reward is often a commission on any sales. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that only rewards can get people talking. Arguably the best way to generate earned media mentions is to create content that tells a story or plucks at the heartstrings. If you can create an emotion or if people can relate to the content, they’re more likely to share it. Alternatively, follow the PR agency route of telling stories that intrigue people. Stories which make them want to spread your message on your behalf. They’ll do this by creating earned media coverage on blog sites and online publications, introducing your brand to their readership and raising awareness. From there, it’s your job to continue to engage with these people when they follow you on social networks or visit your website. And that’s how owned and earned media can work closely together to improve your overall approach to brand marketing.

More Earned Media Examples

Now you know what earned media is and why you might want to harness it. Then it’s time to take a look at what’s worked for other people. One of the best examples of earned media marketing comes to us from Coca Cola and their “Share a Coke” campaign . This is the campaign in which they released a range of coke cans with people’s names on them and asked them to share a coke with a friend. Another great example of earned media comes to us via Dove’s “Truth About Beauty” campaign. It’s unusual because it relied on research from Dove that found that only 2% of women thought they were beautiful. This led to a whole heap of discussions about why that might be and coverage on social networking sites and in publications. One final example is Oreo’s notorious “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark” tweet. It relied on an approach called newsjacking. It succeeded because it referred to a power-cut at the Super Bowl which was still ongoing when they posted it. As a result, football fans went crazy and shared the tweet far and wide. Since then it has become a classic example of earned content and viral success.

The Role of Publishers for Earned Media

Publishers themselves are successful examples of owned media. When people visit the BBC or a niche publisher like TechCrunch , it’s because they trust the brand as a news source. That brand is an owned asset. However, if they mention your company in their post then it becomes earned content for you. When it comes to earned content, publishers can be a vital ally. They typically have a large reach and an established audience, and it’s that audience that you want to tap into. That’s because if you earn a mention from a publisher then there’s every chance that it’ll lead to further mentions. These mentions are from both their readers and other publishers. It can cause a snowball effect. Remember, though, that publishers won’t just write about you because you want them to. You need to give them a reason and to earn that earned content. This means building relationships with journalists and influencers instead of simply spamming them with press releases. Get to know what people write about and find a way to relate it back to your company.


Earned media marketing is a valuable tool in every marketer’s toolkit, and it’ll only get more important in the years to come. That’s why it’s so important to spend some time working on your strategy. You should also definitely consider integrating earned media marketing with your overall marketing mix. Ultimately, the best approach is usually to adopt a mixture of paid, owned and earned media marketing. That’s where we come in. Our unique platform helps you to take earned content and to combine it with owned and paid content. With a blend of machine learning tools and AI our technology distributes highly valuable earned media to the digital touchpoints that matter, in order to increase conversions, engagement and overall profit. So if you’re ready to take advantage of earned media, get in touch. We’re ready to help you to take your business to the next level.